Los Alamos Historical Society Online Teacher's Guide
The Homestead Era
||By the time the Spaniards entered New Mexico, the Pajarito Plateau had been abandoned by the Native Americans and came under the jurisdiction of the Spanish Empire. Land grants were awarded to soldiers. Los Alamos townsite is located where the Rito de Los Frijoles and Ramon Vigil grants were. When the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo ended the Mexican American war, the United States guaranteed recognition of the Hispanic land grants.
Later, in 1863, the United States established homesteading laws. To homestead one would farm the land in return for 160 acres given to the homesteader by the government. In order to gain the land permanently, the homesteader had to prove up by living on the land for five years, building a house, digging a well, fencing a certain amount, and plowing 10 acres. Several families from the Rio Grande Valley built cabins and homesteaded in the Los Alamos area so they could run their sheep or cattle. They would return to the valley to live through the winter. The Romero cabin is an example of such a cabin. It is located behind the Los Alamos Historical Museum.
- Project the information on the homesteading era from the Los Alamos Historical Society website. Discuss the hardships of the time.
- Visit the exhibit on the homesteading era at the Los Alamos Historical Museum. Take the walking tour to the back of the museum to view the Romero cabin.
- Research the homestead act with information and documentation from The National Archives website at (http://www.archives.gov/education/lessons/homestead-act/).
- Read about the trials and tribulations of Adeline Hornbek, who homesteaded in Colorado, by using the website from the National Parks Service at (http://www.cr.nps.gov/nr/twhp/wwwlps/lessons/67hornbek/67facts1.htm).
- Use the interactive computer game “Oregon Trail” to simulate the weighing of tough choices as a pioneer.
- Research the food homesteaders had available. Create a classroom meal.
- Design your own homestead ranch, drawing and labeling areas inside and outside your cabin.
- Go home, choose one room, and make a list of things in that room you could not have as a homesteader. Make a list of things you would have to have in order to survive. Start with things that use electricity to run.
- Create lists of questions to interview the elderly from the Senior Center, relatives or acquaintances, about growing up in rural areas, hardships and trials.
- Write about living on a homestead on the Pajarito Plateau. What would it have been like to come up to this area and build a place to live in the 1860’s? How would you get up here? What would you build your place with? Where would you get your water? What natural enemies would you have faced while living alone on the plateau? What could you do without power? How would you spend your days? What would you do in the evenings?
Books to Read:
- Little House on the Prairie books, particularly Farmer Boy by Laura Ingalls Wilder
- The American Girl Series
- Other books are available from the library under “Homestead”
Keeping Los Alamos History Alive